JROTC sets the table for new tradition

 Dining-in set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

When members of the Richmond Senior High School’s Raider Battalion fall in Tuesday at Cole Auditorium, it will be the start of a new tradition. The 128-member strong JROTC group is hosting its first formal dining-in.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Members of the Richmond Senior High School JROTC Raider Battalion Honor Guard take part in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Parade in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Members of the Richmond Senior High School JROTC Raider Battalion Honor Guard take part in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Parade in Rockingham.

And if you’re invited, consider it an order: Attendance is obligatory if you’re on the guest list. Invited guests for this first dining-in include RSHS Principal Keith McKenzie, Ninth Grade Academy Principal Pam Patterson and Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman, along with an Army buddy Ring served with who now is stationed at Fort Bragg as a chaplain.

Lt. Col. (ret.) Jon Ring, battalion commander, along with 1st Sgt. (ret.) Aaron Light and Sgt. 1st Class (ret.) Victoria James plan to put JROTC students on a path to the start of a new tradition while observing long-held military ceremonies with respect and dignity.

“We’re establishing a lot of those traditions that already exist in most places,” Ring said. “That will hopefully hold from now until …”

Ring didn’t finish his sentence, and that’s sort of the point: These types of lessons are never supposed to be forgotten. And there’s more. It’s also about academics and life lessons, Ring said.

“Our program is all about teaching (and) motivating young people to be better citizens,” he said. “Part of that is, ‘how do you act in public?’ You’d be surprised at things that kids just don’t know how to do … from shaking hands properly to greeting people to understanding what to wear to a specific event, to what fork to eat their salad (and) dinner with.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Selina Martinez, a member of the Richmond Senior High School J.R.O.T.C. unit, prepares the American flag for the presentation of colors on Nov. 8 at Richmond County Veterans Memorial Park.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Selina Martinez, a member of the Richmond Senior High School J.R.O.T.C. unit, prepares the American flag for the presentation of colors on Nov. 8 at Richmond County Veterans Memorial Park.

The dining-in, Ring said, is “the capstone of all that teaching we’ve been doing this year.”

And in by Tuesday night, JROTC students and cadre will have embarked on the carrying on of a tradition, origins unknown. According to U.S. Army Recruiting Command Pamphlet 600-15, “it is believed that the practice of a dining-in began many years ago in England. The origin was probably not a military function but instead a custom practiced in monasteries and early universities. With the advent of the officers’ mess, the British military establishment adopted the custom. The close association and camaraderie between British and American military forces during World Wars I and II led to the United States Army’s adoption of the dining-in as an integral part of the regimental mess.”

The event is set to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday on the campus of Richmond Community College. That signals the start of the social hour. At 6:30 p.m., Raider Battalion members will begin to form the receiving line. Promptly at 7 p.m., there will be a call to mess, followed by the posting of the colors. Following an invocation, there will be a punch bowl ceremony and toasts — to the president of the United States, to the Army, to Richmond Senior High School, to the Raider Battalion and to guests. Afterwards, a poem will be read during the Fallen Comrade Ceremony and Taps will be played.

Dinner is to be served beginning at 7:36 p.m., and after some closing remarks attendees will be a part of skits and other entertainment. Ring said the media is permitted to attend the first hour but beginning at about 7 p.m., the doors will be closed to where “it’s just us.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The Raider Battalion Honor Guard leads the opening ceremonies of the Richmond County Special Olympics Spring Games.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The Raider Battalion Honor Guard leads the opening ceremonies of the Richmond County Special Olympics Spring Games.

There are rules to the mess, and swift sanctions for any violation of those rules. Violations of the mess and general etiquette include:

* Eating before the president of the mess;
* Consuming your neighbor’s food or drink;
* Eating with the wrong silverware;
* Chewing with your mouth open;
* Eating with your hands;
* Licking  your fingers or picking  your teeth;
* Untimely arrival at the proceedings;
* The use of alcohol or tobacco products;
* Improper toasting procedure; and, among others,
* Foul language

In this case, it’ll be up to Ring to decide to levy any punishment for violations, which can include:

* A fine of 25 cents if caught talking during the mess;
* Wearing a baby bit for the dining portion if caught talking with food in their mouths or eating with silverware in their hands;
* An order to stand and issue an apology to the entire table for eating like a caveman if caught eating with their hands or with the wrong silverware;
* A lap around the room “to refresh their senses and energize their body” if caught sleeping during the mess.

Ring suggested he’s realized in recent days that “perhaps we’ve built it out to be such a structured event that they almost have the idea that’s a completely stuffed-shirt (event) … that they can’t even talk. It’s meant to be a fun evening.”

Ring said that “there’s a balance there” between establishing this new tradition for the Raider Battalion with a respect to those who served before them and keeping it fun. They are, after all, students.

“The punishment is mean tot be the fun, entertaining (sort),” Ring said. “It’s meant to reinforce the order of the event, but at the same time, have fun with it.”

Building the program

Members of the Raider Battalion participate in a large number of events, from parades — Hamlet Christmas Parade, Farmers’ Day Parade in Ellerbe, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Homecoming parades, both in Rockingham — to ceremonies around Memorial Day each May and Veterans Day each November, along with the opening of the Richmond County Special Olympics Springs Games each May. Raider Battalion members also present the colors at home football games and many other community events.

James has been on staff six years, but Light came late last fall, shortly after Ring reported for duty in September.

“We’ve grown already this semester” from last, Ring said. “I think we’ll keep growing in the future.”

Like military recruiters, part of the challenge is getting the word out. Ring said he and his staff plan to visit the county’s four middle schools and sharing with them what JROTC offers.

“It’s a program that’s going to develop leadership, challenge them, help them academically in the future,” Ring said.

He’s hopeful of an initiative to make certain parts of the JROTC program to be considered honors-level classes, which he believes will enhance the program’s academic appeal to students.

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News

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